The paradox of vulnerability in relationships

February 24, 2009          Comments (3)

People fascinate me. Relationships fascinate me more. One of the things I enjoy most about MyBodyTutor is I get to work with such a wide range of people. When I say I’ve helped all types, shapes and sorts of people I mean it.

Which is why a majority of the books I read are sociology, psychology or philosophy books. I can have the best game plan and tools in the world (diet, workout plans, etc.) but if I don’t understand why we (humans) do certain things then all that means nada.

In any real relationship with your friends and especially romantic, you need to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a key to likability. No one likes dealing with a robot.

Not that you have to complain to be likable but you need to vulnerable somehow. As Penelope advises admit shortcomings, confess stuff (which also builds trust), and ask for advice to name a few.

I think this is true for both friendly and romantic relationships. If you can’t be vulnerable with your friends then they aren’t real friends. Or maybe you’re just scared they’ll judge you. Or maybe you have a hard time opening up and being vulnerable.

(Interestingly enough, it is my clients who are the most open that succeed the most especially those with deep rooted emotional eating issues.)

But if you never let people see the cracks in your surface they’ll never find a way in. And that means you’ll never be really close to anyone.

Did you ever hear the saying, “Never sleep with your hero because you’re only going to be let down?” I think there’s so much truth to this.

On one hand, when relationships first start they are very exciting and new. We are intrigued more and more by the person. We don’t know what to expect. We see them as this God or Goddess. Everything seems so special and it feels so good. Heck, every time we see the person we get to see them in different clothes.

You can call it an adventure. A challenge. You really like the person and you want them to like you back. They feel the same way but you don’t discuss it. Instead, you’re just inseparable. You choose to spend every waking moment together.

Until…the girl or guy says, “I really like you!” Or maybe she/he says, “I love you.”

And then…just like that…the adventure, the thrill, the pursuit, the chase…is over!

Vulnerability (it doesn’t get more vulnerable than telling someone how much you like or love them) ensues.

Maybe the guy starts farting. Maybe the girl starts complaining about things you find ridiculous.

Comfort follows and security takes over.

Now you’re going to the bathroom for 25 minutes at a clip reading your book. Hey, who cares? We’re comfortable with one another. You’re complaining about the dumbest things. You don’t pay much attention to what you’re wearing because you already ‘have’ him/her.

But comfort is the evil of all romantic relationships!

Comfort = security = boredom! (For many)

Did Chris Rock say it best? Married and bored or single and lonely?

In this great NY Magazine piece relationship researcher, Arthur Aron, has pointed out that new experiences, rather than repeated favorites, are the best way to keep romantic feelings alive in a marriage, based on a series of six studies of hundreds of couples.

But still…you know the person. Doing loads of unimportant tasks doesn’t make them important. Doing all sorts of cool things with the same person doesn’t make you know the person any less!

It’s the less that is more. It’s the less that is so sexy and so intriguing…

Or is it not?

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  1. “But if you never let people see the cracks in your surface they’ll never find a way in. And that means you’ll never be really close to anyone.” Gil, you’ve identified one of the positives of being in a long term relationship here. Yes by letting someone in- comfort and security are likely, but why is that necessarily a bad thing? In turn, your vulnerability allows you to experience the challenge of making a REAL relationship work.

    With the right person, the sense of adventure doesn’t end. Sometimes, you need to work on the relationship to feel that thrill again. . . but it’s usually there- it just takes effort to regain it. Genuinely feeling connected to the same person day after day for years requires both parties to show up in the relationship.

    The PERSON isn’t the adventure . . . but the experiences you have with with them is! A key is to change the perspective to stop looking at the person to provide us with the sense of a thrill. What thrills us will continually change. . .that’s something we need to work out within ourselves and communicate that with our significant other.

    In the beginning when it’s all new, everything SEEMS romantic. How a couple defines romance changes with comfort! I highly doubt a couple who’s been married for 40, 50 years would say that ‘comfort is the evil of all romance.’ At that age, for many people the comfort you have with that person IS romance!

    Comment by Janine — February 27, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  2. Janine – Great comment. Sorry, I just saw this. Anyway, there’s a lot of truth to what you say.

    Comment by Adam Gilbert — March 5, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

  3. I agree that in comfort we lose vulnerability, but I think we choose to do that.

    There are things in life we could pursue (or things that pursue us) that leave us vulnerable. Experiencing them with a partner or talking about them with a partner opens that vulnerability. And with divorce as easy as it is, security is not as secure as we think…

    Great post!

    Comment by Heather — December 31, 2009 @ 11:44 am

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